The Half has Never Been Told, by Edward E Baptist

Just starting an important history book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E Baptist. It’s excellent so far, especially in bringing voices normally left out of histories to the fore: slaves. Their thoughts, their viewpoints. It’s admirable work by the author in putting that together, which can’t be easy, for obvious reasons.

Difficult reading so far. Not because it’s intellectually complex or loaded with jargon. This isn’t quantum physics, one scientist talking to another. It’s our historical reality and the flow of time that led to our current Now. It’s the horrific evolution of this nation and we need to know the complete, unvarnished truth, without hiding from it, ever, in any venue, in any school, in any institution, to prevent anything this monstrous from happening again.…

Forget the Alamo, and Other Myths that Divide Us

I love mythology. Reading it, studying it, pondering its sources and patterns. I love uncovering common mythic threads in multiple cultures, and how we humans repeatedly tell stories about ourselves that strike the same or similar chords — usually without realizing this. East to West, North to South, and all points in between, our myths, when studied holistically as myths, remind us of our commonalities far more than our differences, which is one of the reasons why that study is imperative.

If we take a bird’s eye view, if we fly above it all, mythic journeys generally follow the same basic routes, and they’re naturally, deeply connected with our own, personal travels from birth to death and beyond — often in hopes of that beyond.…

Michael Herr’s Dispatches from Vietnam

The development of slang and jargon. Being tuned into both. Having complete command of both. A way inside and a way to avoid. Everything. Everything you see and know to be utterly insane about your surroundings, your circumstances, but you’ve got the lingo down, and you navigate the slang, the alphabet soup, so it’s all cool.

This is how the opening pages of Michael Herr’s classic memoir of his time in Vietnam may strike the reader, for a moment or two, but there’s more. Much more. It’s beside the point, of course. And it’s essential as foundation for what follows.…

May Days and Freedom Walks

Spinozablue welcomes the poetry and fiction of A.J. Huffman and Charles Tarlton, plus new work by returning champions Donal Mahoney and Steve Klepetar.

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The Fiery Trial, by Eric Foner

I’m currently reading a fantastic history by Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial.  It’s a biography of Lincoln in a sense, but focuses on his relationship to slavery and its abolition. Two hundred pages in, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come, and how incredibly, tragically long it took us to get here. I had forgotten, for instance, that Lincoln’s views — which evolved over time — were considered by many to be too radical, while actual radicals and abolitionists considered him far too accommodating on the issue.…

After the Ides of March

April showers us with new poetry and fiction by Cameron Gearen, Damien Healy and Donal Mahoney.

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The Death of Cleopatra, by Reginald Arthur. 1892

I’m currently reading a very interesting bio of Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff, who also wrote a fine biography of Ben Franklin. She has range.

Cleopatra is a difficult subject for any biographer, but Ms. Schiff does a good job trying to sort truth from legend, and admits when she can’t be sure about certain events or years in the life of the Egyptian queen. We know when she is speculating, unlike many biographers. She actually tells us.…

Sky Mixing

For February, Spinozablue brings its readers new poetry from Breda Wall Ryan, Damien Healy and Donal Mahoney, as well as fiction from Rosemary Jones. A pattern of Celtic voices by coincidence, not design — with an Asian twist.

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 Recently finished Peter Englund’s excellent history of WWI, The Beauty and the Sorrow. What makes this book so special for me is the democracy of voices, the voices on the ground and in the skies, the deeply personal quality of their journals and letters. Englund brings us a mix of soldiers, nurses, activists, journalists and pilots, and tells their stories using their own words and circumstances.…

The First World War

I’m about 50 pages into a new history of WWI. New for me, at least. It came out last year, and is by Peter Englund, a Swedish historian and journalist.

So far, what is most striking is the quality of the writing, its vividness and power, and not just the author’s. He’s selected twenty people from several different countries to tell the story of the Great War, in their own words, from their own point of view, as they lived it day to day.

In a sense, it’s like a good novel, shaped into a symphony of voices, democratic, diverse. In another, it’s like a cubist painting, simultaneous, flaunting its omnihood.…

Four Dead in Ohio

Teenager Mary Ann Vecchio screams as she kneels over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller who had been shot during an anti-war demonstration on the university campus on May 4, 1970.

We do not learn. It’s as if the past never happened. As if the millions of lives lost in war after war after war are all forgotten. And when people in the moment rise up and protest more of the same, they get shot down.

Forty years ago today, four innocent students were gunned down by the National Guard at Kent State in Ohio. Nixon had announced an expansion of the war into Cambodia a few days before, and protests ensued across the country.…

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